When you’re a development studio that comes up with an alternate history, based in one of the most iconic cities in the world, you best make darn sure that you have some great set pieces in place to make the story believable. The Order 1886 comes through in flying colours with its cinematic presentation, pity that it forgot about the ‘exciting gaming’ bit.
All the pretties!
Ready at Dawn must’ve been working around the clock to make this game look the part. The visuals are just about unequalled at this stage. If you’re a graphics whore in any sense of the word you best stop reading right now and just buy it if that’s what your eyes crave. The detail on each and every item in the game is phenomenal. Look at anything – a painting, a carpet, a plant, a chair or anything you can think of and you’ll see a genuine work of art. The unbelievable lighting effects will never fail to amaze. There were times that I waited for about five seconds before I noticed that the cinematic scene was over and had transitioned to the in-game action. The reason it just works so well is because of the extremely dull colour palette that 1886 London is based on. It portrays a sense of realism.
As with most games (or movies), that want to ‘tell a story’, the narrative captures a scene halfway into the game that forms the Prologue. The hero, Sir Galahad, is experiencing moments of excruciating torture and you’re there to witness it all. Why he’s being tortured is yet unknown to you, but before long the Prologue comes to an end and you go back in time to find out how he got to that point. Sir Galahad is part of The Order of the Royal Knights with Sir Perceval, his mentor, and compatriots Lady Igraine, Marquis de Lafayette and Sir Lucan by his side. Together they fight off the rebel uprising.
The weapons ain’t that bad
Before long you’re sent into battle and, as always, this is when the tutorial kicks in. Earlier, in the torture scene, you’ll quickly learn that the developers love the Quick Time Event (QTE) concept. They also seem to love Gears of War as The Order 1886 is basically a third-person cover-based shooter, but nowhere near as exciting or riddled with great concepts as Gears of War. Pressing the Circle button will see you diving into cover, with the X button letting you jump over walls or other small obstacles. It takes some time getting into this mechanic as you’re generally accustomed to using one button to achieve both actions. Other than that the basic cover mechanics, such as diving to and from cover to your left or right, to avoid grenades, is the order of the day. If things get out of hand you can make use of the ‘blacksight’ move by pressing the L1 button. You basically head into a bullet-time mode whereby you quickly end the lives of many in a short space of time.
You will have access to grenades, a handgun and machine gun, sniper, shotgun and various other weapons. To select either weapon you press the corresponding direction on the D-Pad, though only three directions work. Good news is that there are indeed some cool weapons, considering this is 1886. First in line is the TS-23 resonant, Circuit Arc Induction Lance. This gun is kick ass and will shoot bolts of electricity that you can build up for a more powerful effect – Instant popping of heads. Then there’s the M86/FL Thermite Rifle: A LMG that can shoot out squirts of magnesium that’s highly flammable… and that’s when you shoot out the mounted magazine to light up the fireworks. There are some decent other weapons, but those two are definitely the standout out the lot. It’s mostly used to fight off the rebels and other threats, but when it comes to the Half Breeds it’ll take a bit more tact.
Half Breeds are half-animal, half-human creatures. They basically resemble werewolves… and can speak English. Who knew? They generally hunt in packs of three, but you’ll sadly rarely get to see them. They only appear at certain points in the game and when you do face off against them there’s no sense of fear. It’s just another enemy that’s capped by one of your bullets (or a standoff by pressing the L2 or R2 triggers to stab it) and should you have trouble shooting them you can always dodge their attacks by pressing X. Ready at Dawn really had trouble bringing some sense of atmosphere to the game outside of the cinematic sequences. At times it feels broken up into categories. This is a cover-based section, then it’s time for you to search for ‘stuff’ (when that happens you can’t even use your gun or reload it) and now it’s a stealth section. No, you may not wander off the predetermined path. The Order 1886’s biggest flaw is that it’s just exceptionally boring.
I quite honestly could not care for the characters, other than Nicola Tesla, who’s basically The Order 1886 version of Q (The James Bond kind). He offers you new gadgets and weaponry, but the rest are generally dull and annoying. There are moments of lock-picking, climbing rooftops, more QTE’s, pressing Triangle to action ‘whatever’ and once, just once, you’ll use the magic that’s the touch pad on the Dualshock 4. You’ll send one morse code message, then it’s trashed in the can. Like a quick cameo role. There are also no boss battles and the one time you do fight a boss (if you can call it that) it’s a QTE-fest.
No collectibles for you!
This brings me to the million Dollar question. How long is The Order 1886 really? Well, I finished it in 7 hours and I took the time to look at all weapons and items I could find (you literally rotate the right analogue stick to look at the items in Galahad’s hand from different angles). Outside of some audio and newspaper clips, that expand on the story, there’s absolutely nothing to collect. The replay value is exactly ZERO. If it was 7 hours with extras thereafter I’d forgive it, but at the cost of games these days it’s just not on.
It was a brave and risky move from Ready at Dawn. There are a couple of moments with a slight twist in the story that stand out and the action, which there’s not enough of, can be fun, but overall it’s just far too generic and cemented with concepts that worked 10 years ago. If anything The Order 1886 is a great testament to the saying – Great graphics does not make a great game.